Social dilemmas characterize decision environments in which individuals’ exclusive pursuit of their own material self-interest can produce inefficient allocations. Two such environments are those characterized by public goods and common-pool resources in which the social dilemmas can be manifested in free riding and tragedy of the commons outcomes. Much field and laboratory research has focused on the effectiveness of alternative political-economic institutions in counteracting individuals’ tendencies to underprovide public goods and over-extract commonpool resources. Previous laboratory research has not focused on the implications of power asymmetries in paired public good and common pool game settings. In our baseline treatments, we experiment with simultaneous move one-period games in which paired comparisons can be made across settings with public good and common pool games. In our central treatments, we experiment with pairs of sequential move one-period games in which second movers with asymmetric power — “bosses and kings” — can have large effects on efficiency and equity. The central questions are whether the bosses and kings do have significant effects on outcomes and whether those effects differ across the paired public good and common pool games in ways that can be rationalized by some theories but not others.
Cox, James; Ostrom, Elinor; and Walker, James, "Bosses and Kings: Asymmetric Power in
Paired Common Pool and Public Good Games" (2011). ExCEN Working Papers. 71.